22 October 2007
South African petrochemical company Sasol has placed an order with a Japanese manufacturer for a new reactor, which will be used to increase the volume of synthetic fuels manufactured at its plant in Secunda in the Mpumalanga province.
In a statement last week, Sasol said the order to construct a Sasol Advanced Synthol reactor, placed with the Hitachi Zosen Mechanical Corporation, will enable the company to increase capacity at its Secunda plant from the current level of 150 000 barrels per day by 20% to 180 000 barrels per day by 2015.
The company advanced Synthol reactors use either gas or coal as feedstock to produce synthesis gas, which is converted into a large range of valuable liquid fuels and chemical products.
“Sasol supplies about 35% of South Africa’s liquid fuel needs,” Sasol executive director Benny Mokaba said. “The Secunda expansion project will help us meet major growth opportunities in both our domestic and international markets.”
The company has long expressed its plans to expand production of synthetic fuels at its Secunda facility, to take advantaged of the increased demand in petroleum products that has accompanied a prolonged economic boom in the country.
In addition, the South African government decided against imposing windfall taxes on synthetic fuel producers in August, opting instead to call for increased investment in expanding production capacity.
As such, the company has since entered into partnership with the government to conduct a pre-feasibility study into a green-fields coal-to-liquid facility. Known as Project Mafutha, the study is expected to be complete during 2008.
The Sasol Advanced Synthol reactors are designed to convert coal and natural gas into high-quality synthetic transportation fuels such as petrol, diesel and jet fuel, as well as a range of chemicals.
“We have constructed seven similar reactors for Sasol since 1998, and, as one of the leading reactor fabricators in the world, will continuously strive to supply high quality and effective equipment that enhances the development of clean and environmentally friendly new energy resources,” said Hitachi Zosen Mechanical Corporation president Hisao Matsuwake.
The reactor will be about 12 stories (38 metres) tall, eight meters in diameter and will weigh about 867 tons. The company currently uses nine such reactors at its Secunda plant.